Lenovo S10-2 Is a Great $300 Netbook

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In the Mac world, netbooks exist on the Windows side of the fence. Until the recent unveiling of the iPad, Apple hadn’t throw its hat into the subnotebook arena. Even at that, the iPad is a tablet. For those of us who have become enamored with netbooks due to their size, real keyboards, and minimalistic functionality, Apple isn’t even a blip on our radar.

Lenovo bought IBM’s once prominent PC division in 2005 and has since continued on with IBM’s legacy for making durable, quality hardware. They’ve got a few entries into the vast sea of netbooks.

Thanks to Lenovo, I’ve gotten the chance to review the IdeaPad S10-2 netbook. This is the first netbook I’ve really used, much less reviewed.

For those who enjoy reading tech specs (such as mysel)f, here’s the lowdown on what you get with this netbook:

  • white Lenovo S10-21.6 GHz Intel N270 Atom CPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • 10.1″ 1024 x 600 screen
  • Intel GMA 950 graphics
  • 10/100 Mbps ethernet
  • 802.11g WiFi
  • VGA video-out port
  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • integrated microphone
  • audio-in and -out ports
  • multi-card reader
  • 1.3 MP webcam
  • 6-cell battery
  • Windows XP SP3
  • 7.6″ x 10.2″ x 1.8″
  • 4.6 lb.

For the most part, this is standard fare for netbooks. I used the white model, and you can choose from four colors: white, black, gray, and purple.

All Glossy

One thing you’ll notice, which is pretty common among netbooks, is the glossy screen and shiny outer shell. Personally, I’d like to see Lenovo and other netbook manufacturers go to matte screens and outer shells. Glossy screens aren’t good for viewing outdoors, as there’s too much glare, and the outer shell being shiny is a fingerprint magnet.

Overall, the build and construction of the S10-2 is above average.

A Real Keyboard

Being a keyboard aficionado, I’m glad to see a nearly full-sized (90%) keyboard on the S10-2. The keyboard is pretty decent, but it still feels a little cheap in comparison to other netbook keyboards I’ve seen and pecked around on, such as the HP Mini’s.

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2The trackpad is smooth and precise. The buttons feel a little cheap, but they work adequately. On the trackpad, there’s a small vertical area on the right where you can scroll up and down by moving your finger up and down.

I like how small the AC adapter is. It’s not too bulky and fits into a laptop bag nicely.

On the right side, you’ll find an actual switch that turns WiFi on and off. You can also do this through a key combination, but it’s nice to see an actual switch.

The S10-2 is good at keeping cool. It has vents on the bottom and along the left side to keep it from overheating.

Battery Life

How does the S10-2 do in the battery life department? You have a choice between a 3-cell and a 6-cell battery. Optimally, you’ll want a 6-cell battery (which Lenovo provided with the review unit), although it will add a little extra bulk in the rear of the machine. With WiFi running and brightness at the lowest levels, I had no problems getting between four hours and thirty minutes and five hours. This is impressive considering many full-blown PC laptops often don’t get three hours. If you’re a road warrior who uses the Internet a lot, the S10-2 will be right with you without a lot of charging.

When the battery gets low, the battery indicator light, which is in the middle of the three indicator lights located just to the left of the trackpad, will turn to orange color and blink. You’ll also hear a beep every 15 to 20 seconds. You’ll have a good bit of time to plug in the AC adapter.

There are also different power schemes you can choose to maximize battery life. You can choose from Super Energy Saver (the lowest performance level with the least power use), Low Power, Balance, and Performance (the highest performance level and fastest battery drain). While these had some effect, I didn’t notice much of a difference, so in my opinion, it’s better to stick with the Balance level.

Other Features

Like many netbooks, the S10-2 sports a webcam. I’m not too much into webcams, so I briefly tested this in Yahoo Messenger, and I felt like it did a good job.

The S10-2 has a multi-card reader. It reads SD (Secure Digital), MMC (MultiMedia Card), Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro cards. I put it to use by putting all my music on a 4 GB SDHC card for use in iTunes. I did this to keep the hard drive from spinning up so much, which puts a lot of strain on battery life.

Among the other features you’ll find on the S10-2 are an ethernet and a VGA video port. I connected a 17″ CRT monitor, and it worked great.

The S10-2 has three USB 2.0 ports – two on the right side and one of the left side. A headphone jack and microphone jack reside on the left side as well. There’s also an integrated microphone that works very well for calls on Skype.

Easy to Upgrade

Performance is pretty decent running Windows XP SP3, but if you find you want to upgrade the hardware, you can do it very easily.

One of the things I like best about this netbook is the easy access to the internals. If you want to upgrade the memory, you turn the S10-2 over. There are two doors, each of which is secured by two screws. To upgrade the memory, remove the two screws on the smaller door. Once the door is removed, you’ll find the memory. You can upgrade the S10-2 to 2 GB of memory. The bad news is that there’s only one slot. If you want to upgrade or replace the hard drive, you remove the screws for the larger door, open the door, and you’ll have access to the hard drive. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Quick Start

If there’s a killer feature for the S10-2 that sets it apart from other netbooks I’ve seen, it has to be Lenovo’s SplashTop Quick Start (QS), which is powered by Linux.

Quickstart

If you want to do basic things like use the Internet, listen to music, make calls on Skype, chat, or play online games, you don’t have to use big, cumbersome Windows XP. With the S10-2 off, press the QS button above the keyboard on the right side, and within a minute, you’ll have a mini-OS that is a lot like OS X in terms of the fact it has a Dock. This is very intuitive and is quick.

This is perfect for those who don’t want to wait for an eternity for Windows XP to load. I really have to hand it to Lenovo and SplashTop for this. This alone makes the S10-2 stand out from the crowded field of netbooks!

More Features

There are other features that I didn’t test that are worth noting. Instead of using an old-fashioned BIOS password to log in to your system, you can use VeriFace. It’s a face recognition software that takes a snapshot of your face via the webcam and uses that as the password. A cool feature indeed!

Another big feature is Lenovo’s OneKey Rescue system. Like other netbooks, the S10-2 doesn’t include an optical drive so there is no recovery CD. Instead, there’s a hidden partition on the hard drive that is used to restore the computer in the event something goes awry. OneKey Rescue restores the S10-2 to its original state. You can even burn recovery discs, provided you have an external USB DVD burner. There are many backup options within OneKey Rescue. You can use it with or without Windows. This is a handy feature, should Windows ever become corrupt.

All in all, the Lenovo S10-2 is a great netbook that is worthy of consideration. Although the S10-2 has a few niggles, it’s an overall great netbook which will do all you need it to do.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for a netbook you can run Mac OS X on, you may want to look elsewhere. While the original S10 was a capable Hackintosh machine, Gizmodo says of the S10-2, “What you sacrifice: Any semblance of usability in OS X. Adding to the lack of ethernet support, everything from sleep to external video to stability is lost, to the point that the S10-2 isn’t really much of an option.” For more on the S10 and S10-2, see The HackBook Experience: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Purchase Links

  • You can order the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 from Amazon.com in black, purple, or white for $280 to $290 with free ground shipping.

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